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CSX increases north country’s rail speed limit

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Thanks to a change in speed limits, drivers in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties won’t spend as much time waiting for trains in 2013.

Beginning Jan. 7, the speed limit for trains on CSX Transportation’s tracks between Antwerp and Potsdam will increase from 25 mph to 40 mph.

CSX officials said the company made the change in part to reduce wait times at the line’s 37 at-grade railroad crossings.

“This will just improve efficiency along the line,” said Robert T. Sullivan, CSX spokesman. “We also wanted to improve wait times along the line.”

The speed limit increase comes after a summer of track work replacing ties and ballast along the lines and preparing for signal improvements. Mr. Sullivan said the track work wasn’t a result of an increase in business.

“There’s nothing that I know of,” he said. “Of course, we are always trying to increase business.”

The track meets Federal Railroad Administration standards for the increased speeds, Mr. Sullivan said.

Carol Steckbeck, spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver, said railroad crossings should be approached with caution regardless of the speed of locomotives, but the increase should pose no additional risk.

“Regardless of train speeds, public awareness of the dangers present at every highway-rail grade crossing is key to preventing collisions,” she said. “Operation Lifesaver tells audiences to always expect a train at any crossing, at any time.”

On Oct. 21, a Clarkson University student was killed in Potsdam while walking along a CSX railroad trestle across the Raquette River.

The tracks are part of CSX’s St. Lawrence subdivision, which runs between Watertown and Massena, where it joins with tracks crossing into Quebec and connects to large multimodal shipping facilities on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Between Antwerp and Potsdam, the line travels through Gouverneur, DeKalb Junction and Canton, crossing Route 310, Route 345 and Route 11.

The line’s biggest customer is Alcoa in Massena, but a spur serves the idled Balmat Zinc Mine.

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